Trump's second impeachment trial: Day 1

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:30 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021
30 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
2:00 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

This isn't the first Senate impeachment trial for a former official

From CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

Senators can argue about whether it's constitutional to try a former official, but they can't argue about whether it's been done before. It has.

Here's one example, which Democratic impeachment manager Joe Neguse just mentioned in his remarks on the Senate floor:

During the Gilded Age, so-dubbed by Mark Twain, the Secretary of War to Ulysses Grant was caught taking kickbacks and funding a lavish lifestyle — accounts all seem to note how William Belknap's first and second wife were extravagantly dressed.

Caught, Belknap begged his friend and boss, Grant, to accept his resignation. He was at turns on his knees begging Grant and in tears, grasping Grant's hand, according to lore.

This image from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper is in the Senate archive. It appears to show the weeping Belknap before Grant allowed him to resign.

But after that, he was impeached and tried in the Senate, which is bad news for Trump.

Although he was ultimately acquitted by the Senate, which might be good news for the former President – though Belknap's corruption is a much different thing than Trump's insurrection.

1:53 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Capitol riot video shows clear impeachable offense, lead House impeachment manager says 

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Senate TV
Senate TV

After playing footage from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, lead House impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin said that former President Trump's actions inciting the riot constitute “a high crime and misdemeanor.” 

“If that's not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing,” Raskin said. 

Raskin said that Trump wants to render the Senate "powerless" during a presidential transition period, while Raskin believes it is one of the most important and fragile times for the country.

"The transition of power is always the most dangerous moment for democracies. Every historian will tell you that. We just saw it in the most astonishing way. We lived through it. And you know what, the framers of our Constitution knew it. That's why they created a Constitution with an oath written into it that binds the president from his very first day in office until his very last day in office and every day in between," Raskin said.

Raskin, an expert on constitutional law, went on to lay out why the Democrats believe a trial against a president who has left office is constitutional.

"Under that Constitution, and under that oath, the president of the United States is forbidden to commit high crimes and misdemeanors at any point he is in office. Indeed, that's one specific reason impeachment, conviction and disqualification powers exist, to protect us against presidents who try to overrun the power of the people in their elections and replace the rule of law with the rule of mobs," Raskin added. "These powers must apply even if the president commits his offenses in his final weeks in office. In fact, that's precisely when we need them the most, because that's when elections get attacked."

WATCH:

4:36 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

This is how the Capitol riot unfolded

From CNN’s Ted Barrett, Manu Raju and Peter Nickeas

The House managers are presenting video evidence of the Capitol riot as part of their case against former President Trump.

Supporters of Trump breached the US Capitol on Jan. 6, engulfing the building in chaos after Trump urged his supporters to fight against the ceremonial counting of the electoral votes to certify President Joe Biden's win. Read a transcript of Trump's speech here.

Five people died as a result of the riot, including a woman who was fatally shot by police and three people who died of apparent medical emergencies.

Here's how key events unfolded throughout the day at the Capitol:

  • Shortly after 1 p.m. ET, hundreds of pro-Trump protesters pushed through barriers set up along the perimeter of the Capitol, where they tussled with officers in full riot gear, some calling the officers "traitors" for doing their jobs.
  • About 90 minutes later, police said demonstrators got into the building and the doors to the House and Senate were being locked. Shortly after, the House floor was evacuated by police. Then-Vice President Mike Pence was also evacuated from the chamber, he was to perform his role in the counting of electoral votes.
  • An armed standoff took place at the House front door as of 3 p.m. ET, and police officers had their guns drawn at someone who was trying to breach it. A Trump supporter was also pictured standing at the Senate dais earlier in the afternoon.
  • The Senate floor was cleared of rioters as of 3:30 p.m. ET, and an officer told CNN that they had successfully squeezed them away from the Senate wing of the building and towards the Rotunda, and they were removing them out of the East and West doors of the Capitol.
  • The US Capitol Police worked to secure the second floor of the Capitol first, and were seen just before 5 p.m. pushing demonstrators off the steps on the east side of the building. 
  • With about 30 minutes to go before Washington, DC's 6 p.m. ET curfew, Washington police amassed in a long line to push the mob back from the Capitol grounds. It took until roughly 5:40 p.m. ET for the building to once again be secured, according to the sergeant-at-arms.
  • Lawmakers began returning to the Capitol after the building was secured and made it clear that they intended to resume their intended business — namely, confirming Biden's win over Trump by counting the votes in the Electoral College.
  • Proceedings resumed at about 8 p.m. ET with Pence — who never left the Capitol, according to his press secretary — bringing the Senate session back into order.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement earlier Wednesday evening that congressional leadership wanted to continue with the joint session Wednesday night.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor that the "United States Senate will not be intimidated. We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs or threats."

It took until deep in the early hours of Thursday morning, but Congress eventually counted and certified Biden's election win.

Watch here:

1:35 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Democrats are showing footage from the Capitol riot at the trial

Rioters clash with police in the US Capitol building on January 6.
Rioters clash with police in the US Capitol building on January 6. Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

As part of his opening remarks in the Senate impeachment trial, lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin showed footage from the day pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol building.

Videos from the deadly attack were interweaved with footage of President Trump addressing a rally of supporters just moments before the surge.

"We fight like hell," President Trump is heard saying at the rally. "We're going to the Capitol," he said at another point.

Videos from the Capitol showed supporters clashing with police and scaling the building's walls before breaching the doors of the Capitol. Footage from inside the Capitol showed members of Congress evacuating before rioters stormed the Senate floor and members' offices. One video showed the moment was rioter was shot and killed.

1:27 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Lead House impeachment manager says their case is "based on cold, hard facts"

Senate TV
Senate TV

In his opening remarks, lead House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin said his team's case against former President Trump would be "based on cold, hard facts." 

"It's all about the facts," Raskin said. 

Raskin, a Democratic congressman from Maryland, said Trump has sent his lawyers to the trial to "try to stop the Senate from hearing the facts of this case." 

"They want to call the trial over before any evidence is even introduced. Their argument is that if you commit an impeachable offense in your last few weeks in office, you do it with constitutional impunity. You get away with it."

"If we buy this radical argument that President Trump’s lawyers advance, we risk allowing Jan. 6 to become our future," he added.

Watch:

1:22 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

This is what the First Amendment actually says

The historic second impeachment trial of former President Trump is now underway.

Trump's defense team has said they plan to argue that the former President's false claims that the presidential election was rigged and his speech to the crowd ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, are protected by the First Amendment.

As both sides make their case, here's what the First Amendment actually says:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

That's the entirety of the US Constitution's First Amendment.

There's a lot going on in those few sentences, and it's important to know when and how it applies to common situations – and, equally as important, when it doesn't.

Our constitutional experts look at some common First Amendment arguments and when the Amendment actually applies. You can read them here.

1:17 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

The Senate votes to adopt the rules to guide the trial

Senate TV
Senate TV

The Senate voted to adopt the rules agreed upon by leadership to govern the trial.

"It has been agreed to by House managers, the former President's counsel, and co-sponsored by the Republican leader, it is bipartisan," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said as he introduced the organizing resolution.

"It is our solemn constitutional duty to conduct a fair and honest impeachment trial of the charges against former President Trump, the gravest charges ever brought against a President of the United States in American history. This resolution provides for a fair trial and I urge the Senate to adopt it," he continued, speaking from the Senate floor.

The organizing resolution sets the schedule for the trial. Here's a look at other key parts of the resolution:

  • After four hours of debate today on the constitutional question, there will be a vote at a simple majority threshold to affirm the proceedings constitutionality.
  • After that, each side has up to 16 hours for presentation.
  • Then there are four hours for senators' questions.
  • If there's a request for witnesses by the House impeachment managers, there will be two hours of debate after the question period, followed by a vote on whether to call a witness.
  • There will then be four hours of closing arguments, evenly divided.
  • Then the vote on conviction or acquittal.

Read the full resolution here.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduces organizing resolution:

1:15 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

GOP senators discussed the possibility the trial could end Saturday night

From CNN's Manu Raju

GOP senators at lunch just now discussed the possibility trial could be done Saturday night with a final vote then, per two senators.

They expect the Trump legal team will not use their full 16 hours, and they don’t expect senators to use their full four hours of question time.

It still remains to be seen if this is the case. But this is what GOP senators are expecting at the moment — if no witnesses are called.

1:03 p.m. ET, February 9, 2021

Trump's second impeachment trial has started

Senate TV
Senate TV

The second impeachment trial of former President Trump has just begun in the Senate. Senators will vote shortly on the rules agreed upon by leadership to govern the trial. 

Trump is the only US President to have ever been impeached twice.

It's just the fourth impeachment trial in US history.

Congress has conducted three presidential impeachment trials to date:

  • President Andrew Johnson in 1868 for firing a Cabinet secretary without the consent of Congress.
  • President Bill Clinton in 1998 for perjury and obstruction of justice.
  • President Trump in 2020 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Johnson, Clinton and Trump were acquitted, so they stayed in office.

This is the first-ever impeachment trial of a former President. It will aim to answer whether one can incite an insurrection with impunity.

Democrats in the House of Representatives voted on Jan. 13 to impeach Trump following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, charging him with "incitement of insurrection."

You can read the full article of impeachment here.